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Karzai escapes assassination attempt

Kandahar governor wounded; gunman wore army uniform

Discussion / Activity

September 5, 2002 Posted: 4:36 PM EDT (2036 GMT)
Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai, left, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai walk through crowd before Thursday's shooting attack.
Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai, left, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai walk through crowd before Thursday's shooting attack.  

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai escaped an assassination attempt Thursday by a lone gunman wearing the uniform of the new Afghan army.

Witnesses reported hearing dozens of shots in an exchange that left the gunman and one of the president's bodyguards dead and Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai and a U.S. special operations serviceman wounded.

A news photograph of the scene showed three bodies on the ground after the clash.

Speaking to reporters about the failed assassination attempt, Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah said that Karzai was leaving the governor's house when a uniformed, armed person appeared in front of their car and opened fire.

A bodyguard fired back at the shooter and both were killed immediately, Abdullah said. He also confirmed that the governor had been slightly wounded. The Pentagon said initial reports indicate the gunman was killed by U.S. troops.

A witness said he heard dozens of rounds of shots.

The wife of one of Karzai's brothers said the president and the governor had gotten into their car when the gunman fired five shots into the vehicle. But another witness said that Sherzai and Karzai were not yet in the car when the shooting took place.

Sherzai was wounded in the neck. He was treated at the Kandahar air base and released.

U.S. Central Command said a U.S. soldier providing security for Karzai was injured as a result of what it called "an apparent attack on a motorcade" transporting the officials. The soldier received minor injuries and is in stable condition. The soldier was taken to a nearby military medical facility for treatment, Central Command said.

U.S. Special Forces assigned to guard Karzai react after Thursday's shooting.
U.S. Special Forces assigned to guard Karzai react after Thursday's shooting.  

Karzai, who was in town to attend the wedding of his younger brother, was whisked to safety after the shooting. He was to be airlifted out of Kandahar. He is being guarded by U.S. Special Forces. (Karzai profile)

Sherzai is a member of the ethnic Pashtun tribe and is a supporter of the Karzai government. He has a security detail and there was an increased amount of security in Kandahar because Karzai was there.

A State Department official confirmed there are plans for Karzai's security detail to change hands this month from U.S. Special Forces to Diplomatic Security forces.

The official said "it would be speculative and premature" to consider whether those plans would be changed in light of the shooting.

The representative said "U.S. officials are just gathering information now to try to determine what happened on the ground. It is unclear."

The official said this transfer is taking place because diplomatic security personnel specialize in issues particular to diplomats, and the security forces will be in Afghanistan in part to train Afghan diplomatic security to eventually take over the job of protecting Karzai.

"We're not leaving," President Bush said in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was speaking at a rally. "We want to help democracy flourish in that region," Bush added.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan says Bush was notified about the shooting upon his arrival in Louisville.

Buchan said, "The White House is looking into what happened. That obviously the President is relieved that President Karzai is safe. The two are expected to meet next week in New York at the United Nations meetings."

The shooting in Kandahar happened hours after two explosions rocked the center of the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing at least 26 people and injuring 150 others. (Full story)

There were no immediate claims of responsibility in the blast or the assassination attempt.

At the end of July, officials said they thwarted an assassination attempt against Karzai. They said they found a car filled with explosives.

-- CNN's Ryan Chilcote contributed to this report.

Weekly Activities:
Updated September 21, 2002

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